Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

Fashion goes sensible in postquake Japan

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Tokyo’s luxurious department stores are seeing a new trend toward sober women’s fashion this summer as a direct consequence of the earthquake on March 11. Comfortable trousers, sensible shoes and muted colors are the order of the day, according to J-Cast, who polled the city’s department stores on sales figures since the quake.

If the shoe fits the occasion ...

If the shoe fits the occasion ...

It’s estimated that about 3 million people had to trudge home on the day of the quake when the city’s transport network came to a virtual standstill. Among them, we remember seeing a huge number of OL (office ladies) painfully making their way home in heels. That memory has stayed with women, many of whom are opting to buy ballet flats and low heels (not sports shoes but shoes that can be worn to the office or out on a date). In Matsuya Department Store in Chuo Ward and Ginza, for example, after mid-March sales of ballet flats shot up 50 percent.  A large department store in Shinjuku also reported a 50 percent increase in sales of walking shoes.

Sales of summer trousers for the misses demographic (women in their 30s to 40s) at Mitsukoshi Department Store in Nihonbashi are up 6 percent. “Many customers say that ‘If something happens, I want to be wearing clothes in which I’m free to move in.’ We’re seeing that trend continue,” a sales manager at Mitsukoshi told J-Cast. In Ginza’s well-established department stores, some stores are reporting a 10 percent rise in sales of women’s trousers.

Color schemes are also dampened. This year’s hot colors were expected to be red and orange in line with global trends, but a sales manager at a Ginza department store reports that white, beige and light blue are being favored over bold colors as are natural fabrics like cotton and linen.

Along with casual Super Cool Biz trends, we can expect to see a much more sober style adopted by women this summer as they tackle the psychological effects and practical concerns of a postquake world.

Super cool biz and signs of a setsuden summer

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

For most people in Tokyo, life two months past the March 11 quake and tsunami is back to usual. But it’s not as if nothing at all has happened. In addition to paying keener attention to minor rattles (will it get stronger? was that just the tail end of a much bigger quake elsewhere?) and keeping go-bags at the ready, the signs are small, but they are there. Signs in store windows, from convenience stores to fashion outlets, carry the ubiquitous cheer “Gambarou Nippon.” Company mascots, from Lee Jeans’ Buddy Lee to KFC’s Colonel, are joining in the rallying cry. Waiters at the hip Good Morning Cafe wear subtle red buttons with the same message.

Many are wondering if the coming summer will really bring the promised  electricity cut-backs. Setsuden (energy-saving) measures are at once an attempt to stave off power reductions and a taste of what they would entail. What’s cooler than Cool Biz? Super Cool Biz.  This year’s incarnation of the power-saving and sweat-inducing measures runs two months longer than last year and relaxes the standard business dress code even more. Where last year the most that  a hot-under-the-collar salary man could get away with was ditching the coat and tie, this year he can lose the collar altogether. T-shirts, jeans and Hawaiian shirts will be permitted under the Ministry of Environment’s new guidelines. (Only nice jeans, though. Standards specify “no rips or holes.”)

Continue reading about setsuden measures →

Hacking for a safer world

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Tokyo HackerSpace describes itself as “an open community lab, studio, workbench, sewing circle, machine shop+” for people into “technology, building things, gardening, cooking, science, sewing, digital art, [and] gaming+.” In more concrete terms, THS is a rented house between Ebisu and Meguro where every surface is piled with soldering guns, circuit boards and packing foam. Even the window is obscured by a self-watering hanging garden made of repurposed bottles, containers and tubing. Part of a global movement, the group’s twenty-some members pay a monthly fee to keep the materials for their projects there. Until now, that has meant sewing supplies, electronics, tool boxes and a semi-functioning electronic piano. Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, sheets of solar panels and boxes of geiger counters and their components have taken a prominent place among the organized chaos of the HackerSpace.

Tokyo HackerSpace is currently working on three main projects to help the people affected by the disasters. The one that’s received the most attention is Safecast, a project with international backing designed to provide independent radiation readings throughout Fukushima prefecture, with plans to expand beyond there later. Pieter Franken, one of the project’s leaders at THS, said, “Ideally we’d have stationary monitors placed throughout the region, but there’s a worldwide shortage of geiger counters right now.” For now, the group has created mobile monitors they call “bento geigies,” for the way the parts pack neatly into their plastic box. International Medcom donated 10 geiger counters that cost hundreds of dollars each. The hackers have bundled them with GPS loggers, wifi devices and custom circuitry that outputs the data stream to a laptop to create roving broadcasting kits that can be mounted on cars to “take radiation readings the way Google street view takes photos,” Franken said. (While the circuitry seemed seamless, two of the hackers looked a little unsure about whether the nylon straps they’d attached to the kit would be long enough to attach it to the car, lent by a local dealer.) The data is going up on Safecast.org, the organization’s own site and also to pachube, an open-source map displaying all kinds of global environmental data.

Continue reading about Tokyo Hackerspace →

Disaster preparation with a difference

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Emergency koala biscuits from Lotte

Disaster gear tends to be, well, a little frumpy, or, in the case of Japan’s rather weird disaster hats, just downright ludicrous looking. So what’re trend-conscious Tokyo-types to do when the ground starts shaking for the trillionth time? Some are turning to Danish brand Yakkay for the answer. Their trendy hard hats have been selling like hot cakes since the quake hit, according to Tokyo Walker. Though they’re aimed at cyclists, the hats on sale at Rotator Store, Marui’s specialist bicycle store, have been worn elsewhere. Marui’s PR manager points out that they have been spotted on train passengers as they make their commute to the office.

So what other funky disaster-related products are out there? Here are but a few:

  • Silver Hello Kitty disaster kit: Though this kit does contain the dreaded quilted disaster hood, it also has a funky pink Hello Kitty bandana inside to don once the tremors have subsided, allowing kids to regain their street cred. Also inside are a blanket, torch, pillow and pouch. Demand appears to be high. At the time of writing this item is sold out on Jishin Bousai Netto (Earthquake Disaster Prevention Net) and Amazon.
  • Black rhino disaster kit: Again for kids, but we think adults could get away with sporting this funky matte-black rhino-shaped bag. Contents include: a whistle, a torch, aluminum sheet, tissues, pen and memo pad, cotton gloves and hand towel.
  • Silver disaster jacket for dogs: Dogs need to stay safe too. This stylish coat can double as a stretcher for injured dogs and is waterproof in case it pours down. Inside its pockets are items that humans will find useful in an emergency.
  • Lotte Koala Biscuits: If you’re forced to eat boring old dry biscuits, you might as well have them in funky shapes. This five-can set of emergency treats will do nicely.
  • Blue jumpsuit: Politicians wearing this stunning sky-blue item will be able to show that they’ve really taken charge in an emergency. The suit also signifies that they are working hard alongside the common man to bring an end to a crisis. Supposedly, anyway. Watch out for grumpy movie directors who might sneer at your stylish threads. They’re just jealous!

 

An early warning system in every pocket

Friday, April 8th, 2011

The “bwoop, bwoop, bwoop!” of cell-phone earthquake alerts is enough to scare the bejeezus out of most people in the near vicinity, especially anyone who experienced the March 11 Tohoku-Kanto quake. A fantastic invention that beams info from Japan’s Meterological agency directly to your phone, the service can predict the occurrence of an earthquake from a few seconds up to a minute in advance. But does it have to be so damned terrifying? The makers of apps for Android and iPhones clearly think not.

Yurekuru kooru (tremor’s coming call) for the iPhone, available on iTunes, tinkles urgently (see video above) to announce the arrival of a tremor. Since the big one hit last month, followed by innumerable tremors, subscribers to the service have multiplied tenfold and downloads have now broken the 1 million mark: Testament to the popularity of the iPhone and to the feelings of uneasiness most Japanese are experiencing at the moment.

For Android users there’s the Namazu Sokuhou β (Catfish Report β). Users are able to choose their own warning noise; though it’s important to make sure it’s not too subtle, the service should be able to wake you up in the middle of the night after all. In Japanese mythology giant catfish living in mud underground were thought to be the cause of earthquakes, hence the catfish reference in the app’s title. Users should note that the app is still in beta.

Japan’s earthquake early-warning service predicts larger quakes on the basis of the preceding P-waves and sends messages out to phones after tremors are felt by over 1,000 seismographs throughout the country. Quick calculations are then done to predict the size of the subsequent quake and that figure is reported on the cell-phone screen as well as estimated time of impact. A detailed explanation of this sophisticated system can be read in this article in Time magazine.

Both of these apps are free to download. Users of AU, DoCoMo and SoftBank also receive free reports but don’t get much say in how their earthquake warning message is delivered. Comments on Twitter from jittery Japanese suggest these apps are filling a definite need: “I duck underneath the table every time I hear the warning. It’s like an air-raid siren,” UnConiglioNero states on Twitter.

Hanami dilemma: to jishuku or not jishuku

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

This year’s hanami in Tokyo is set to be one of unprecedented sobriety. In respect to the recent tragedy in the Tohoku region, the cherry-blossom-viewing parties traditionally lubricated with liberal amounts of alcohol are being discouraged by park authorities. Many officials are calling for citizens to show self-restraint (jishuku).

Revelers from hanami past (Yoshiaki Miura photo/The Japan Times)

As our sister blog Yen For Living pointed out, this seemingly well-intentioned approach makes little economic sense and is only adding to the woes of the service industry, which is already suffering from rolling blackouts and shorter business hours.

However, according to Tokyo Walker, one izakaya chain is taking a unique approach the dilemma of whether we should revel or not. The Takada-ya chain of pubs, which has 54 branches nationwide, launched a special party course menu from April 4.  The course, which includes dishes such as tempura and shabu shabu, costs ¥3,000 for groups of four and upward, and ¥500 yen of that will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross and other such organizations.

Takada-ya is already participating in the relief effort. With the cooperation of other businesses they’re working to distribute food to those in the disaster-struck areas. In Hitachinaka in Ibaraki Prefecture on March 20 and March 30 in Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture they served up warm soba noodles. They plan to do the same in the future in Fukushima and elsewhere in Miyagi.

Takada-ya isn’t the only company to find a loophole in the jishuku guidelines.  American Bar Oldies, in Katsushika-ku, Tokyo, will be hosting a drinking party to raise money for victims of the disaster on Sat from 7pm (reservations are necessary). According to the bar owner’s blog, his high school friend, who was getting a bit sick of the atmosphere of self-restraint, suggested the idea.

Not everyone believes it’s necessary to do your drinking indoors out of respect. A sake brewer in Iwate has made a video in which he calls for people to enjoy drinking sake made from the regions hit by the earthquake to stimulate economic recovery. Elsewhere on the web, a site called Save the Tohoku Nihonshu has been launched to showcase the sake of the disaster-hit breweries.

So for those about say “kampai” under the blossoms, do it with respect and buy a nice bottle of Tohoku tipple from your local sakaya.

Creative shelters bring privacy to Tohoku evacuees

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

ShelterBox tents are helping families regain privacy in evacuation centers in Iwate Prefecture

A UN report on March 19 stated that there were 376,907 people taking shelter in evacuation centers in the areas affected by the recent tsunami. While that number goes down daily as refugees are housed by relatives and friends, the numbers of people living in cramped conditions at evacuation centers is still high. Fortunately for some evacuees, temporary schemes are being implened to immediately improve their privacy and the temporary housing projects that are currently being constructed.

Architect Shigeru Ban‘s disaster relief project aims to tackle the immediate problem of privacy. “For the first few days, it’s O.K., but then people suffer because there’s no privacy between families. It normally takes a few months before they can move into temporary government housing,” Ban said in a recent interview in the New York Times. Ban’s solution is simple: Canvas sheets are hung from a frame constructed of rolled paper poles to create a partitioned area in which families can retreat from the public eye. Financed with donations from around the world, the kits are shipped out to evacuations centers in the affected areas. Details about how to contribute can be found on the Shigeru Ban website.

U.K.-based charity ShelterBox are sending out emergency kits that contain a tent, blankets, tools, crayons and coloring books for kids and cooking utensils. “Our tents are being used by young families as a private space and a sleeping area. This is incredibly important for morale and is giving the families back a sense of dignity,” says ShelterBox Field Operations Specialist Mark Pearson on the charity’s website. Rikuzentakata and Ofunato, both in Iwate Prefecture, are areas that have received ShelterBox kits so far.

In Rikuzentakata temporary housing for the 1,000 people currently living in evacuation centers is already being constructed. According to Bloomberg News, pre-fabricated shelters like these are constructed by Japan Prefabricated Construction and Suppliers Association, a group that includes big name house builders like Sekisui House and Daiwa House Industry.

Another possibility for future housing looks to be eco-warrior Michael Reynolds’ Earthship. According to MNM.com, earthquake resistant homes made from recycled materials that support sustainable living could possibly be constructed in affected areas in the future. Reynolds has previously overseen the construction of Earthships for victims of the Haiti earthquake and is considering the same for Japan. “Earthship Biotecture is currently gathering information on getting to Japan,” Reynolds wrote in a strongly worded anti-nuclear statement on Earthship Biotechture’s website.

Post-quake aid on a musical note

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

All Tomorrow's Parties' fundraising event Made in Japan will raise money for the Japanese Red Cross

The music industry both at home and abroad is rallying to raise funds for disaster-hit areas in the northeast of the country. Though it’s perhaps easy to be cynical about the motivations of artists to get involved with good causes, Japan’s disaster victims indisputably need the funds, as well as the morale boost that comes from knowing that music fans across the globe are digging deep to support them in their time of need.

One of the most heart-warming stories to come out of the domestic music scene was news that Johnny’s Jimusho would be lending their trucks to the relief effort. Cancelling all performances for the month of March, the agency’s pretty boys were instead loading up trucks to be sent north. Stars like Hideaki Takizawa helped to load the trucks with much needed relief supplies that included items like toilet paper and antiseptic. Johnny’s acts are also working on a special CD whose proceeds will be donated to a tsunami relief charity.

Across the Pacific Ocean in the U.S., a who’s who of top pop and rock icons took part in the “Songs For Japan” charity album project. Now available on iTunes for $9.99, artists on the 38-track album include Lady Gaga, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters and Justin Bieber. With royalties waived, every cent is going straight to the Red Cross relief fund. This week, Kyodo reported that it was iTunes’ top-seller in 18 countries.

One of the artists on the CD, Ne-Yo, has also showed his moral support by going ahead with his post-quake dates in Japan and donating some of the proceeds to relief efforts. The artist felt it was the right thing to do, giving fans something to smile about in a difficult time. Not all foreign artists scheduled to play Japan during March agreed with Ne-Yo’s stance, though. Ke$ha cancelled her Japan dates out of respect for the victims. A statement on her website reads: “My heart is with Japan right now through this disaster and these hardships. I genuinely don’t think right now would be appropriate timing for me to perform in Japan given the content and the spirit of my show, which is all about feeling exuberant, rowdy and wild.”

While the question of whether concerts in Japan are appropriate at this time is a thorny one, plenty of charity concerts abroad are going ahead. The international indie scene has been particularly quick to mobilize itself behind the cause. As soon as the news of the tragedy became apparent, organizers of SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, which already had 20 Japanese acts on the bill rallied to collect funds at the festival for the American Red Cross relief effort and raised in excess of its target $100,000. In New York on March 27, acts from Japan and elsewhere, including Sonic Youth, Sean Lennon, Cibo Matto and Yoko Ono, performed at a concert to raise money for Japan earthquake relief efforts. In the U.K. All Tomorrow’s Parties, which just held its first-ever festival in Japan before the quake, have organized a fundraiser slated for April 21. Acts on the “Made in Japan” bill include LFO, Fuck Buttons and Squarepusher.

A more mainstream music fundraiser, to feature as yet to be announced global music talent, is currently being planned in London for April. The event is organized by Live Nation and will take place at Wembly Arena. Also coming up in April is a special fundraiser being held at Manchester’s iconic Hacienda on April 22. “From Manchester to Japan With Love” will be headlined by Basement Jaxxx and funds raised will go to the Japanese Red Cross.

RSS

Recent Posts